Tagged in: travel

Sandals Whitehouse – Jamaica

My travel reviews aren’t as frequent as I’d like but hey we can’t all travel the world every month now can we?  My most recent trip took me on a 4 night 5 day trip to Jamaica.  Living in South Florida, this was a hop, skip and we were there. First time flying on Caribbean Airlines and have to say it wasn’t too shabby, it was way better than Spirit but a cardboard box with wings has a shot to be better than Spirit.  The one great thing about Sandals is that they had a really nice room/area in the airport where people could wait for the shuttle to take them to the resorts with free drinks and snacks.

This was a special trip for myself and family, so we opted for skipping the regular shuttle and got a limo van for a few of us. This was a blessing and a curse. We got there in record time, I didn’t know VW vans could take corners that fast.  We were trying to surprise someone so this was good, the curse though was that the trip from the Montego Bay airport is at least an hour and a half with someone that has a lead foot and filled with sharp turns.  You travel up and down two mountain ranges to get to the Sandals Whitehouse resort. So we arrived feeling like we just got tossed around inside a can and spit out.

Once we were finally here we were treated incredibly well. The staff at this resort really went above and beyond for us. We were surprising my mom for her 60th birthday by showing up to surprise her (as she had flown in the day before).  I would have to say that at least half the resort knew about our plan and arrival, they made sure we were able to complete the surprise through multiple efforts.  Some of the wait staff at the restaurants weren’t enthusiastic but they also weren’t mean or rude.  I also felt that they should have had just one more bartender at the swim up pool bar in the main pool, the bartenders got swamped on some of the busier days. Even though you’re relaxing on a pool float in Jamaica people can get a little antsy waiting on their frozen drink. Speaking of drinks, they really could use some bendy, flexible straws haha. It’s not easy to drink laying down with the straight straws.

Now, not being one to just lay by a pool all day I did run into an issue I was unaware of, we had come to visit during a national holiday, I believe it was Hero’s day in Jamaica. I felt bad for the people who were working at the resort because it seemed like the whole island shut down for more than just one day. It also put a damper on my plans to do any activities off the property.  This was another issue to figure out, it seemed like the tours desk at the resort didn’t really explain why I couldn’t sign up for like 4 different excursions until I specifically asked “Why are there no tours available?”. The distance that the Sandals Whitehouse is from most of the activities also plays a part in this.  For example, it is 3 hours each way from the most popular activity, Dunns River Falls, and at least an hour to most of the other tours.  So basically you spend a whole day doing some of the activities.

Once we realized we weren’t going anywhere, it did help us to just chill out and relax a little bit more. We took advantage of the free snorkeling/glass bottom boat one day, which was a quick easy snorkel trip. Lots of small fish and some great coral were all easily spotted.  There was also free dive trips and free wake boarding or water skiing.  We were able to take out the free hobie cat sailboats, use the kayaks and the paddle boards. The hobie cats and kayaks were ok but the paddle boards were beat up. I mean there was only one board that had a fin on it, and the paddles they had wouldn’t extend.  I didn’t notice this at other Sandals I’ve been to, so unfortunately I just think sometimes the watersport equipment is hit or miss. One unfortunate thing is that the beach appears to have been eroding away. Currently they are trying to build some jetties to cut down on the erosion. The beach is quite rocky and as we dubbed it “wild”. It looks like a jungle beach with tress growing on the beach which actually provides some shade.

All this relaxing and being out side can really build up an appetite! The food here was amazing!  For lunches we ate at Neptunes (beach side) a few times and Bluefield’s (beach side but at the opposite end of the resort). If you stay in the Dutch or Italian areas try and make a trip over to Bluefield’s for lunch, the view and breeze are worth it alone! But those Jamaican beef patties they serve are to die for!  The portion sizes here aren’t that large so keep that in mind. For some reason Giuseppe’s Italian at night was sweltering inside, it was actually cooler outside! The food of course amazing. However for a solid dinner, the Filet Mignon at Eleanor’s was the best! Do not miss Jasmine’s though! Incredible asian cuisine! Oh and stop by Cafe de Paris for desserts!

After all is said and done, you retire back to a very nice room with A/C! The best part about this resort is every single room has an ocean/beach view!  Great king sized beds, jacuzzi bath tubs, spacious balconies were all nice features. The wi-fi was really weird at this resort, once you went inside it was sort of spotty so keep that in mind. The resort is huge! Not in a “Omg this is too far to walk” way like Disney, but in a spread out roomy sort of way. I was thoroughly impressed with the grounds, the fitness facilities ( I mean a separate building just for squash?), and the main plaza surrounding the main pool.

Property map of Sandals Whitehouse Jamaica

At the end of the stay, we loaded up for the drive back in a regular shuttle. Only 6 people in a big van so we grabbed the front seats to avoid as much motion sickness as possible.  Arrived at the airport with plenty of time and came home more relaxed than before. All in all this was another hit for a trip.

Mabel Mullan and Matthew Mullan at Sandals Whitehouse Jamaica

Some tips from me, if you really spend a lot of time in your room and love room service pay the extra for concierge level. Otherwise save the money and go with the basic room. If you’re going peak times would be the only time you might need the exclusive butler service for reservations and so forth.  If you don’t plan on leaving the resort then this is a great resort, but next time I’m going to stay closer to other activities. Hope some of this info helps any of those planning to go! Leave a comment if you’ve been here before with your tips.

Hiking with Lifestraw drinking water out of a puddle

LifeStraw is a Life Saver!

Let’s face it water is essential to living, the human body can last for a month of more without food, but can’t last more than a week without water! Our bodies are made up of over 60% water and we need it to function.  Many of Gear Guide for Men‘s readers find themselves away from city water that’s been treated and often are surrounded by non-drinkable water supply. I remember myself going camping growing up and having to cart in the fresh water supply we need for the few days we would be in the woods or having to boil water in order to make it clean. Those days are gone thanks to the LifeStraw.

LifeStraw product review

The LifeStraw is basically a big straw that you stick right into any water source; a bottle, a river or even a puddle and it converts the bacteria filled water into clean drinkable water.  It does this by using advanced hollow fiber membrane technology to filter out 99.9% of waterborne bacteria including E. Coli and Salmonella. Plus 99.9% of waterborne protozoa, including Giardia and Cryptosporidium. The LifeStraw doesn’t use any chemicals to treat the water either, so there is no after taste and its BPA free!

This is an incredible tool to have whether you’re going camping, hiking, fishing, or even building an apocalypse bomb shelter and want to be able to drink water into the future! Each LifeStraw can filter up to a 1000 liters of water. So keep that in mind if you’re trying to stock up for life off the grid! You can grab them here for about $20 which isn’t bad considering how great and vital this little straw can be!

This only weighs 2 ounces and is easy to carry with you at 9 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. It meets US drinking water standards so you can trust that when you stick it into that puddle or stream you can be sure you’re getting fresh, clean, great tasting drinking water. With no moving parts to break and ease of use for everyone this is the perfect fresh water system for the outdoor enthusiast!

Daiwa mini system mini reel fishing rod and reel combo for travel with hard case review

Daiwa MiniSpin Travel Fishing Rod

For a short time I worked in outside sales and drove around so much I had to downsize from a Full size pick up truck with a V8 to a cross over SUV with a 4 cylinder engine. Needless to say this mean my “gear” didn’t fit in my new vehicle. Living in South Florida and getting the itch to do some fishing, I almost always had a fishing rod with me. My new vehicle meant things had to change.

Change can be scary. I had never owned a travel fishing rod, but after being caught too many times without one I had to get one. I chose the Daiwa Mini System Minispin fishing rod and reel because I liked the case it came in and had a pretty good reputation. Now this isn’t a rod to be fighting the big fish with, but if you’re looking to hook up with some decent size light fish then this is perfect!

Here is what you get when you buy a Daiwa MiniSpin: A hard case to travel with, which is important when hiking or basically any travel that could bang up your luggage.  The reel is ultralight and smooth, with ball bearings and multi-disc drag as well. The term ultralight just in case you were wondering is intended really to be for the size fish you’re going after. It has a 5:1 to 1 retrieve ratio. The rod itself comes in 5 pieces and is built to handle 2-6 lb test line and lures from 1/16 oz. to 1/4 oz weights.

It fits right under my car seat and is an easy grab for me to put together and throw a line in when I’m stalking some bass in the canals near my house. The size of the case is 14 x 7.8 x 2.5 and doesn’t weigh much for those considering packing issues in your hiking pack or airline luggage. I’ve used it to catch a few 1-2lb large mouth bass here in South Florida and it does the trick. Actually makes the fight a little bit more exciting if you ask me! Sometimes I have a tough time deciding between using my standard rods or this when I’m at home.

Credit Card knife perfect to fit into a wallet as the ultimate travel accessory for men

Tool Logic – Credit Card Companion

Remember that credit card company slogan “Don’t leave home without it”? The Tool Logic Credit Card Companion really should have adopted that slogan. This multi-tool, credit card thin, must have is perfect for those of us who can’t always have our trusty Leatherman multi-tool on us at all times. We all have our favorite handy dandy pocket knife we try to grab before we leave the house, but you can leave that at home and just grab your wallet with this gadget tucked inside it!  Some may call it the guardian angel…because you’ll hardly realize you’re carrying it, but when you need it, it pulls more than its weight!

tool logic credit card companion multi-tool pocketknife

This amazing wallet tool box comes with a razor sharp, 2″ stainless steel blade with serrated edge, a can/bottle opener, awl, 8x power lens, a compass, toothpick, tweezers, small/large screwdrivers, and inch and cm rulers thrown on the back. Somehow they packed all of this into one card that only weighs 1.3 oz. For those of us who like to travel light but never be caught unprepared this couldn’t be better!

All tool logic products come with a lifetime warranty too! So don’t be afraid to bust out this tiny yet powerful tool when you need to! The knife can easily cut through rope, rubber hose, and of course cardboard along with almost anything else you can throw at it.  Some of the other accessories will wear out long before this blade will let you down. You will probably use the blade more than anything but you’ll be surprised how many times you pull out the screwdrivers to tighten things or make adjustments.

This make a great gift but also gives you some reassurance that you’ll almost always have something to get the job done right in your pocket! Right now you can save %50 if you get it here:

 

cruise vacation travel

Cruise: Best vacation for your travel budget?

Growing up, my family vacations consisted of piling into our vehicle and hitting the road to go visit family or friends. We never really traveled to exotic locations or went on exciting vacations. I’d have to say that this type of “vacation” is what a good 75% of Americans think of when they think of taking a vacation. They try to save money, by driving somewhere, staying with friends or family and keeping things simple at a mediocre hotel. Many of us think a cruise is something exotic and spectacular (if you’ve never been on a cruise before and don’t live near a major cruise center) which makes it seem out of reach as a typical vacation option for many of us. This is only a perspective coming from a Georgia boy with family scattered all across the southeast and northeast.

I was fortunate enough to take a job working for one of the major cruise lines for over 5 years, luckily I was able to work shoreside. Based on my experiences I wanted to share why cruising can really be one of the best vacation options for your family if done right.  Here are some reasons why cruising is pretty awesome these days!

There is something for everyone: Whether you are going with your 8 and 16 year old and just so happen to be dragging grannie and gramps along for the fun, there will be something for all of them to enjoy. The best part is you can choose to do the activities with them or on your own. Cruises these days make sure that they have activities catered to different age brackets and they generally keep each age bracket with 5 years of each other. Meaning that they know exactly who they are offering the activity to. For example, the teen/kids programs offer video game parties targeting certain ages and at the other end of the spectrum, certain cruise lines offer formal dancing partners for the elderly to enjoy. Off the ship is similar in the excursion choices. Cruise lines actually hand pick the excisions that are offered through the cruise line to ensure they match with the crowds on the ships.

cruise ship caribbean

Cost: Sometimes when people who have never cruised before compare it to the cost of a typical run of the mill low cost hotel stay, it might seem on the high end, but there is a reason it usually costs more than a typical hotel stay… its about 80-90% all-inclusive. I use that range because most everything is free on most major cruise lines (food, shows, activities, and some beverages). The part that is not included is the beverages. So if you add up what you’d typically spend for food on vacation, which is usually going out to eat for every meal plus snacks, you usually end up spending more than on a cruise! Keep an eye on how much you spend for drinks on a ship and you’ll be alright! Stay tuned for part 2: How to cruise like a pro for some cruising tips!

Location: Almost 100% cruises are going to go to somewhere pretty special! Let’s face it, they want to take you somewhere you’ll never forget! This is an added bonus because memories can last a lifetime! The world is too small not to explore as much as you can. A vacation is meant to be a chance for you to escape from the every day life that we lead. Sometimes a trip to visit family and friends just doesn’t cut it. You need a breathtaking view to make your jaw drop! Most cruise lines even have their own private island where you can find solitude and explore your own stretch of white sane beach between your toes!

Don’t get me wrong though there are some places that you need to just set down an anchor and stay for a few days in a beach side villa, but if you are looking for a great alternative to a run of the mill road trip, drive a little further and find a cruise port!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for part 2: How to cruise like a pro!

A view of the pacific ocean coastline from the shores of Maui, Hawaii on the Road to Hana

Travel Tips: Maui, Hawaii

Maui can be best described as Heaven on Earth. In very few places can you find yourself constantly surrounded by beautiful scenery on all sides with mountains and volcanoes on one side and the turquoise waters of the pacific on the other.  It really does have something for everyone, whether you’re looking to chill out at a hotel and never leave or you want the full Maui experience with adventure around every turn!

Since we know most of our readers are going to probably enjoy the latter, some of these tips will gear towards an exciting trip to Maui! This is based on our experience when we visited Maui for the first time.

Pre-Planning: Some of the most expensive times to go will be around the summer but also during some of the winter months as this is whale watching season. To save some money we went in May. Even though we were after the recommended Whale Watching time, we were able to spot a few breaching whales right from the shore. The savings will not only be on the flight costs but lodging as well.

Based on the cost of some of the hotels and accommodations we grabbed a 2/2 house in an upscale neighborhood 1/2 a mile from an amazing beach. This made for a phenomenal view out the back deck while the front of the house looked up into the mountains on the West side of the Island. All we did was search VRBO.com. We were about a 5 minute drive from Lahaina. This is where a lot of touristy shops and restaurants are located along Front Street. Staying in this house gave us a full kitchen, washer and dryer, some ocean toys, and saved us almost half of what we would have spent at a hotel! Plus we were able to park our rental Jeep right at the front door. Oh yeah the yard was scattered with fruit trees ripe for the picking!

The blue ocean waters and sand beach and off shore reef with mountains in the background from Maui, Hawaii

For transportation, do your research. We used Maui Discount Jeep Rental. A quick note on why you should choose a jeep. It is the best way to get around and SEE Maui. There is so much scenery not just in front of you but above you and all around. Plus the term for highway in Maui doesn’t always mean it’s a two lane road or even paved at all! So the jeep is a perfect choice! Going with a company like this allows you to get the lowest price on a rental and you work with reputable rental car companies like Enterprise and others.

If you are looking to explore Maui on your own. You MUST buy this book: Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook. This is the 6th edition of this book as the writers are always making changes. They aren’t just people who visit and report back. They actually live there and make real world suggestions and advice on places to eat, visit, and things to do! The maps really can help sometimes especially if cell phone service drops off! Once you’ve read this book you’ll have a better idea of the things you want to do.

The visit: Once you land get ready to have some fun! The numerous hiking trails scattered throughout the island allowed us to escape the flat lands of Florida and walk amongst the clouds! Don’t be afraid to stop off at a road side beach! They can be the most relaxing and uncrowded! Plus they can hold treasures of their own. This is where we spotted the rare Hawaiian Monk Seal (keep in mind they come to shore to sleep for extended periods of time so DO NOT Disrupt them).

Try to have a plan of activities by the second day so you are able to squeeze everything in. Here are some of the top activities we enjoyed!:

Ride with some real Hawaiian Cowboys at the Mendes Ranch! These guys were great and found horses for every level rider and gave an exhilarating tour to say the least! We got to see hidden waterfalls, amazing views, and cliff side ocean views!

Get dirty in side by side ATV’s at Kahoma Ranch! We mean diiiirty! One of our outfits still has the red volcanic dirt stained into it! This is a blast though! Start off lowland on bumpy dirt trails and head up lond with a stop to have one of the best pineapples you’ve ever eaten fresh out of the ground! Then you’re off to get muddy in the wet trails of the high elevation!

ATV riding through the mountains of Maui with the pacific ocean in the background.

Explore amazing hidden waterfalls on the road to Hana! Use the book to guide you during your drive to hike off the road up rocky river beds and find yourself in secluded waterfalls! Once at the end of the road you can drive back or rent a cabin at Wai‘anapanapa State Park. Here not only can you grab a basic bungalow but you’ll find fresh water caves to dive into and get some cool history of the Island! As well as the famous black sand beach!

These are obviously not the only things to do on Maui, but just some of the exciting adventures you can enjoy! Try your hand at surfing, snorkel off of Molikini, hike the waihee ridge, kite surf off the north shore, and don’t forget to explore the island! Keep an eye our on the north west side of the island for a little food stand selling baked goods on a sharp corner on the road, its supposedly got the best banana bread on Earth!

snorkel molikini off of maui, hawaii

Even if you don’t have a trip planned yet pick up the book to start preparing! Let us know if you have any additional tips on visiting Maui in the comments below!

 

WOW Airlines $99 USA to Europe

WOW Air $99 from USA to Europe!

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In October of 2014, budget airline WOW Air announced it would be operating flights from Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik to Boston and Baltimore for as low as $228. This was a major announcement in itself and was very popular amongst US travelers itching to hop on board. WOW Air began operations in 2012 and has been a very successful, even though it does operate with an ultra low cost operating structure, which means it charges for almost everything!

Don’t be afraid though, this is not like some other budget airlines with poor customer service or treating customers like animals. Gear Guide for Men was able to contact an American using this airline throughout Europe and states that they don’t treat you like cattle. Here is his statement:

“The answer [We asked what people thought of the airline] is great. Just flew them to Iceland from Berlin (albeit not to USA, I do have experience with them). You don’t get treated like cattle such as on Ryanair either. I am an American, and do expect good customer service! Also flew Norwegian Airs new long haul from USA to Copenhagen which only cost $179, and although they used brand new Boeing Dreamliners, they don’t talk to you onboard unless you purchased food. They also have horrible customer service via their telephone hotline and limited hours. WOW Air was surprisingly great!” – Justin W.

WOW Airlines $99 from US to Europe

What’s even better news is like the title suggests, they are now offering flights as low as $99 from the US to Iceland. The airline encountered a very strong demand from both sides of the Atlantic, which meant not only did they increase the launch dates for some flights but also lowered the rates! They will be departing from BWI as early as May 8 instead of the previous date of June 4. Plus instead of the original plan to use BWI as only a seasonal route it will now offer year round flights.

For years there has been notoriously limited options when flying from the US to Europe, which drove costs up. This could be the reason why WOW Air has been so successful in this market. The $99 deals are not on every flight however and those seats do sell out very fast when they are offered. So Bargain hunters better be on top of your game! Still, their rates are very reasonable and as we’ve heard first hand from an American passenger Gear Guide exclusive, it’s not a bad airline either. If you have thoughts on budget airlines, WOW Air or other international travel tips, then please leave a comment below.


SylvanSport GO just might be the best Pop-up camper/ trailer ever!

Let me first start out by saying that for some reason the idea of a pop up camper always seemed cheesy and almost dorky…I personally never liked the idea of a camper versus an actual tent. However time and technology has been able to change my mind when I was introduce to the SylvanSport GO pop up camper and trailer.

Most people opt for the pop up because its not big and bulky like an RV but offers the comfort and stability that a tent is lacking.  This ultra-lightweight pop up is towable even by a small hybrid car for christ’s sake! Talk about usability!  The latches and handles to make the GO function are even designed to be easy to use and operate.  The functionality is really where it shines though.  The conventional Pop ups were a standard box and you could possibly store bikes or kayaks on top if you were lucky.  The GO is a utility trailer allowing for storage on the inside during transport as well as on top!

bike_9

With the motto on their site of “One trailer. Countless uses.” we believe them!  It can carry 10 mountain bikes or 10 kayaks and when you get to the campsite you’ve got room to sleep 4 people and 6 1/2 feet of head room.  It’s design allows for multiple variations of use and it has the perfect layout for a functional and spacious interior.  The term of “swiss army knife” of campers is pretty accurate.

Some specs to keep in mind for the long term are that it’s exo-frame made of lightweight aluminum and the fabric is 200d rip-stop polyester material to keep you bug free and dry!  The storage boxes will never corrode and are a durable polyethylene material. You’ve got a durable roof out of thermoformed ABS plastic and lightweight, high-strength panels for sleeping platforms that are hidden out of sight for storage.

I can’t explain enough how easy the GO is! It has a one step coupler for hitching and hydraulic assist when opening the sleeping pod! Even the trailer has a tilt deck to allow for easy loading!  A product that can offer so many uses really does hold its value!

Here is what you get:

The fully loaded SylvanSport GO camping-trailer, only $8,495. Includes:

  • SylvanSport Mobile Adventure Trailer and Tent System
  • 2 Bed/Table Panels – Allows up to six different interior configurations
  • 4 Self inflating mattresses – GO sleeps up to four, comfortably, on a King-and-a-half sized bed.
  • Awning Kit – adds 80’ of outdoor living space
  • Spare Tire Kit – Mounted securely underneath the Control-tilt Deck
  • Control-tilt Deck – Allows for ramp free loading of motorcycles, lawn mowers, ATVs and more

It really does have us sold that is the best pop up camper and trailer!